Somehow we knew it was all going to work well before a single word was spoken. Popular recordings from the 1950s put smiles on faces and the magnificent country inn provided on stage by Martin Johns set up expectations of slamming doors, sliding panels and perfectly-timed slapstick to come. And so it proves. No matter that the script shows its age, Ian Forrest’s team of ten actors took this 1954 horse racing farce by John Chapman by the withers and galloped with it. The ‘fixed’ race might not have been won, but the evening certainly is.
Dry Rot From L to R James Duke, Chris Hannon and Nicholas Goode in Dry Rot at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick (previous picture shows Louise Yates and Stephen Aintree) Photo: Keith Pattison
The action is wildly histrionic from the start, yet carefully controlled and we have no time to wonder how preposterous it all is - the very element of farce. Each over-the-top character is lovingly created with James Duke, Chris Hannon and Nicholas Goode as the hapless race fixers providing most of the laughs. Praise, too, for Jessica Ellis as dotty and disrespectful Beth, the maid, and Zoe Mills as the owner’s daughter, her ponytail and high-heeled kicks competing for laughs and providing a little light romance with George Banks’ bewildered secretary - and for Stephen Aintree and Nicky Goldie as the Inn’s owners, playing it beautifully, almost straight, and Adrian Metcalfe’s voluble and very funny French jockey, with Louise Yates even managing to make us laugh at a police sergeant named Fire.
Ian Forrest and his cast bring this old chestnut to delightful life - and a new audience - with children in the house laughing loud and long.